This third season, along with the fourth, represent the height of the original Not Ready for Prime Time Players. For the first time, we are introduced to The Blues Brothers, The Festrunk Brothers, Roseanne Roseannadanna, Point Counterpoint, The Olympia Restaurant and many others. Favorites such as the Coneheads and the Samurai return in force as well.
I taped most of this season in its entirety over the years, and am quite familiar with the strength of these episodes. I especially like the Steve Martin/Blues Brothers appearance, as well as the season-ender with Buck Henry/Sun Ra.
I've shared my thoughts on the value of the original SNL before, so instead, I'd like to point out a few highlights to look forward to:
1. Chevy Chase returns for first time hosting duties on 02/18/78. There was quite a bit of backstage animosity/tension towards him, and one particular spat ensued over the Weekend Update anchoring duties. Bill Murray, still the "new kid," was out to hold his ground against Chase, and became defensive of Jane Curtin. Apparently, Belushi - who was the clearest Chase rival - delighted in stirring up the situation to the point that Murray punched Chase right before air time. The fight was broken up, with Murray walking away calling Chase a "medium talent." If Chase seems nervous, this was why. Still, Chase does a superb job performing under these circumstances. More trivia: this is the only time Belushi, Aykroyd, Murray and Chase ever share screen time together (for a military-themed skit). Even more trivia: Billy Joel, as Chase tells us, missed his 10th high school reunion to appear.
2. Steve Martin/The Dirt Band (aka Nitty Gritty...) - Martin explains that he went to high school with the Dirt Band members and that they were the most "talented musicians" he knew. Martin himself shows off some considerable musical chops (on banjo, natch) when he accompanies the group on an instrumental called "White Russia." Randy Newman also addresses the flak he had taken for "Short People," to which he responds with a giant raspberry.
3. While many of us are familiar with the clip of Elvis Costello stopping his song mid-intro to play "Radio Radio" instead, some may not know that this show was hosted by an old woman named Miskel Spillman who was the winner of the "Anyone Can Host" contest held throughout the first half of the season.
4. Attack of the Atomic Lobsters - the Robert Klein episode has an unusual "wrap around" or through-story that ends with everyone in the studio getting killed by giant lobsters. Still strange today, it shows how experimental the show was willing to be. This show also featured the demented brilliance of "X Police."
5. The experimentation is also prevalent in the integrity of musical choices, which was always a real treat. Instead of teen pop junk, we may be unexpectedly greeted with a rousing tuba ensemble (yes, that was Gravity, one of the house band member's pet projects), raw country (Willie Nelson), old school R&B (Chi-Lites founder Eugene Record), a personal friend of the cast or guest host (Gary Tigerman), or the guest host themselves (Madeline Kahn, Richard Dreyfuss, Mary Kay Place). Your personal tastes weren't always met, so much as your perspective expanded. The cast were obvious music aficionados themselves, as clearly evidenced by their spirited enthusiasm (Belushi, especially) towards Ray Charles, in a largely music-oriented episode.
6. Curious to see if a little bit cut from syndication will appear here: I remember there being a little tag to the Dreyfuss episode (this resulted from the show being under time). Belushi tells the audience that he loves Dreyfuss despite him being "a Jew." Now, Belushi is clearly improvising here and not being antisemitic, but of course this reads much different in our PC-sensitive times. Anyway, I haven't seen that since the original airing.
Many more to note, but I hope that gives you a taste of what's to come!